Wednesday, June 28, 2017 This Week's Paper

Largest port habitat restoration project wraps

// 26-acre wildlife habitat open to public viewing

Port of Tacoma recently wrapped up its largest environmental restoration project to date: a 26-acre wildlife habitat site along Hylebos Creek.

The port purchased the property in 2005 for habitat restoration and mitigation, and finally dedicated the space, named by the Puyallup Tribe a traditional Twulshootseed word meaning “The Place of The Circling Waters.”

“The port has been reclaiming bad stuff for a long, long time, Gog-le-hi-teand other mitigation sties that we have returned to a natural clean state, but the uniqueness of this one is the size. It’s the biggest that the port has ever done,” said Port Commissioner Connie Bacon.

The port put about $13.6 million into creating the salmon-friendly site, which took over a former gravel mine. The habitat restoration project removed nearly 255,000 tons of contaminated material, created inter-tidal channels to benefit salmon and other wildlife, and planted 35,000 native trees and shrubs.

“We have a traditional village site very near that area where they put this restoration site,” said Brandon Reynon, historic preservation specialist for the Puyallup Tribe.

Excavation uncovered an old Indian arrowhead, which was presented to Reynon on behalf of the tribe during the dedication ceremony July 20.

“This project allowed us to restore it to what it would have been like, before all the construction and before they built everything around it. This is probably what our ancestors would have seen. It’s very beautiful from what it was to where it is now. It looks almost natural.”

The site, connected to several other restored areas along the creek, is part of a larger effort to rejuvenate salmon runs on the tidally-influenced stream.
Located at 1621 Marine View Dr., most of the area is fenced off to the public, but a paved walkway leads to a publicly accessible overlook for visitors to take in the large, protected site.

“We’ve returned some really nasty area to a prime environmental location. We removed a lot of debris and mess and terrible things and replaced them with green, trees and bushes – it’s natural habitat for birds and salmon and all kinds of wildlife,” Bacon said.

At high tide water flows from the creek into the newly created inter-tidal zone, and the excavated stream channels fill with up to eight feet of water. These areas provide adult salmon with a place to acclimate to freshwater before heading upstream to spawn and a place for juvenile salmon to acclimate to saltwater before heading out to Puget Sound. The channels and marsh land also harbor insects, crustaceans and other food for the salmon.

“It is fascinating to stand there and see this beautiful place, and right past it – containers at the port. It shows that both things can exist at the same time, and in harmony.”